BBC Worldwide profits up 50 per cent

MUMBAI: BBC Worldwide the commercial arm of the BBC has published its Annual Review for 2004/05.

It has announced record profits of ?55 million for 2004/05, a year on year increase of 50%. Sales increased by seven per cent to ?706 million and cash flow to the BBC was up by ?4 million to a new high of ?145 million.

Following a strategic review and reorganisation, the company now operates six businesses: TV channels, TV sales, magazines, home e4ntertainment, Children's products and new media. Both through its own operations, and via joint ventures, it seeks to drive commercial benefit from rights and content on behalf of the BBC.

The TV Sales business saw profits of ?31.7 million. Sales were up from ?167.7 million to ?171 million. 40,000 programme hours were sold. Relationships with independent production companies continued to flourish and, following the new Terms of Trade, output deals with key independents were struck, including with Endemol UK and Hat Trick Productions.

During the year BBC Worldwide acquired the rights to distribute ITV-commissioned and Channel 4-commissioned programmes made by independent production companies for the first time. In the future the business aims to become the distributor of choice for UK programme producers

BBC Worldwide CEO John Smith said, "This has been a key year for BBC Worldwide and the company has delivered excellent results. We have completed a reorganisation, made some board changes, begun to develop a new strategy, and are now halfway towards the target of doubling profits over 24 months. The cash we returned to the BBC from both profits and direct investment into programming was also a record ?145 million.

"The BBC's review of commercial activities last year has ended, and we now have a clear understanding of our role, scope and objectives, and of BBC Worldwide's relationship with the BBC. The contributions offered by a wide range of external contacts were very useful, and we have acted to address major concerns by, for example, selling the women's magazine eve and stopping the trailing of magazines on BBC television."

As far as BBC Magazines is concerned the company had announced a joint venture with Times of India's magazine subsidiary. Thuis will enable BBC titles to be launched in India. Eight new international editions of BBC Top Gear were licensed, and future growth in overseas activities is expected. BBC magazines' circulation went up by eight per cent.

BBC targetting Chinese channel: Meanwhile A executives from BBC Worldwide will visit China with plans for a television channel there. A repotr in The Guardian notes that the BBC has had a strained relationship with the Chinese authorities over its news reporting in the past. The corporation is also planning to launch a new children's channel in the US.

The division is also looking to license its books and learning division. Possible partners include media and education group Pearson.

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